The 15 Worst Things You Can Do When Staying in Someone Else’s Home

Updated: Oct. 27, 2023

If you ever want to be invited for an overnight again (or earn those coveted five stars on Airbnb), avoid these guest faux pas.

Cheerful couple inviting people to enter in homeShutterstock / Jack Frog
Shutterstock / Jack Frog

Staying at someone else’s home in lieu of a hotel might be an easy way to save money on vacation, but it comes with extra responsibility. Instead of just living and leaving, it’s your job to be respectful to both the people hosting and the space they have given you. Whether you’re spending the night in a friend’s guest room, visiting Grandma or renting a property through a hosting company like Airbnb or FlipKey, avoid these faux pas!

If You’re Staying With a Friend, Don’t…

Make Loud Noises at Night

If your host has an early morning the next day and wishes to go to bed early, it’s rude to blast the television in the guest room just because you’re not tired. You’re not forced to go to sleep when your host does, but it’s incredibly selfish to keep them up all night while they’re letting you stay at their place. If you’re the only one awake, keep the volume low or stick to quieter activities. In addition, if the host sleeps right next to the bathroom, make sure anyone who wants to shower before bed does so fairly early in the evening.

Wait Until You Get to the House to Ask for a Favor

It’s OK to have a few requests, but be sure to ask for any unusual items before you get there, giving the host time to prepare. If your husband is vegetarian or your daughter has a broken leg, don’t wait until you get to the house to ask for a meat-free dinner or bags of ice. (Bringing a vegetarian along? The host might appreciate this list!) If your host doesn’t have special supplies ready, they may feel incompetent.

Some exceptions to this rule include asking about hair dryers, washing machines and other appliances that almost every household has.

Let the Host Clean up After You

After meals, volunteer to help clear the table and clean the dishes. If the host asks you not to help, however, don’t push it: Some people are particular about the way they clean or organize their home. If they want you to sit back and relax, by all means, respect their wishes!

Bring in Allergens

Before you stay in anyone’s home, ask if anyone in their family has any allergies you should be aware of. It’s also a smart idea to wash that cat-hair-covered sweater before wearing it into your host’s home, but you should probably do that anyway!

Feed the Dog

Never offer food to someone else’s pet unless they specifically say it’s OK! Even if you feed your dog table scraps at home, doing this for others’ pets may be completely off-limits. Dangerous things can happen when animals eat people food…don’t risk it.

If You’re Staying at a Stranger’s Place, Don’t…

Leave Doors Unlocked

Yes, it can be hard to figure out how to lock someone else’s door, but the last thing you want is a break-in when the homeowner isn’t even around. Any time you leave the rental property, give the door handle a firm twist to make sure it’s really locked. Also, be sure the house is secure and the key hidden in its original place when you leave. There’s nothing scarier to a rental host than returning to a property and realizing it’s been unlocked since the guests left!

Park in the Wrong Place

Just like regional vocabulary, parking is different everywhere you go. Before arriving at a new house, always ask if there is parking available. If not, you need to find out where you can leave the car. Accidentally stealing the neighbors’ spot or taking up space on a narrow street can be incredibly rude to other people in the area.

Disobey or Ignore House Instructions

Most rental homes come with a little binder of instructions: Here are some local places to visit, shop, and eat; here’s our wifi password; here are our house rules. Before you do anything else, read these! Some places have specific towel limits, instructions for working certain appliances, or rules for the air conditioning/heating. It will save everyone time, money and trouble if you take a look. Future guests will thank you, too!

Leave Windows Open When It Rains

A light drizzle? Keep those windows ajar for a fresh, cool breeze. A heavy downpour? Batten down the hatches. Even if you like the smell of rain in your own house, you don’t know how the water will affect someone else’s countertops or windowsills. When in doubt, keep ’em shut.

Skip Writing in the Guest Book

Most rental hosts have fun lending their home to travelers. They want to provide guests with a good time and a clean place to stay. In return, they are probably very curious about what you did while staying in their place and what you thought of the area. Always leave a kind note in the guest book, thanking the hosts for their hospitality and encouraging future guests to visit some of your favorite local sites. Even if you did not enjoy your stay, a little thank-you will suffice.

No Matter Where You’re Staying, Don’t…

Act Like It’s Your House

Don’t look into rooms with closed doors. Don’t open the fridge without asking. Don’t put your feet up on the furniture. Don’t eat food that isn’t offered, and don’t look through drawers. This is not your house—don’t act like it!

Another thing: Don’t wear shoes in the house. There are good reasons why, regardless of etiquette!

Hide Spills

If you accidentally knock over a makeup tube or a drink in the bedroom, don’t move furniture to cover it up or hope the host won’t notice. The longer that stain settles, the harder it will be to remove. If you’re embarrassed, you can attempt to try and clean the stain yourself, but it’s probably best to just let the host know before things get too messy. If it was truly an accident, they’re not likely to be upset.

Leave Clutter Behind

There are garbage cans all over the house. Use them!

Trash Your Room

Before you leave, give the bathroom counters a quick once-over as a polite gesture. Your host will clean your living space after you leave, but it shows respect when you attempt to tidy up. In addition, wipe any toothpaste out of the sink, close the caps of any bottles in the shower, make the bed, and ask if you can empty the trash.

Move Things Around

Need to use some of the plates, borrow a pillow from another room or move a chair to be closer to the table? Totally fine, but be sure to put them back when you’re done. Respect the way your host organizes their house and don’t change the layout on them.

When in doubt, just ask yourself: If I were having people over, what would I want them to do? If you begin looking at things from the host’s perspective, you’ll have the perfect guest etiquette when it comes to staying at someone else’s house.

On the flip side, if you’re worried about doing things right when people come to your place, we have the ultimate guide for hosting overnight guests!